Poor Manny Pacquiao.
The once-celebrated slugger has gone from being universally recognized as the lone threat to rival Floyd Mayweather’s pound-for-pound kingship to being virtually dismissed as a has-been by both diehards and pundits alike.
And it happened in the blink of an eye.
Pacquiao, of course, was famously obliterated by Juan Manuel Marquez last December just as he appeared to turn the tide in his favor once and for all. Despite being spilled to the canvas by an overhand right from Marquez in Round 3, Pacquiao had recovered nicely, scoring a knockdown of his own in Round 5 and taking control on the judges’ scorecards.
But perhaps this is when he got a bit overly excited.
Indeed, it was precisely Pacquiao’s contempt-filled overaggression near the end of Round 6 that sealed his fate. That, of course, and the brash indifference Marquez showed in putting his own self in harm’s way as Pacquiao approached.
Pacquiao was simply caught unaware, it seemed, as Bart Barry opined for 15rounds.com.
Pacquiao did not sense it at all; he leaped in with the left-hand lead because he knew the worst that would come was a trip over Marquez’s front shoulder, and the best that might come was a definitive end to their rivalry – shutting “Dinamita’s” crybaby mouth for the rest of their days. Pacquiao did not walk into Marquez’s right hand or even run into it. Pacquiao bounded at it, got his upper vertebrae contracted by it, his chin forced backwards while the rest of him surged forwards, and ruined by it.
And so he was, but does this single moment in time mean a now-34-year-old Manny Pacquiao should change his style as he moves forward with his career?
Should Pacquiao not be Pacquiao?
Every fighter changes over time. He improves or gets worse. Nothing stays the same in this world. Nothing. Even inanimate things that appear solid in their nature are in constant flux should you peer at them through a microscope.
Such is the case for Manny Pacquiao.
Pacquiao and longtime trainer Freddie Roach know this. Frankly, they always have. There is always much to work on, and for all of Pacquiao’s accomplishments, you’d be hard-pressed to find a responsible trainer say to a young pupil, “This is how you should do it, son.”
That’s not to say Pacquiao doesn’t do things well. Absolutely, he possesses high-level skills and attributes that other fighters might kill for.
Rather, it’s only that Pacquiao’s performance as a pugilist has never been done by the book. Manny Pacquiao is not the blueprint for anyone except, well, Manny Pacquiao.
Pacquiao and Roach have painstakingly crafted the fighter into what was just a few years ago the most devastating fighting machine on the planet.
Part of it is genetics. The southpaw is absurdly fast and has ridiculous power in both hands. Ask Miguel Cotto and Ricky Hatton.
Part of it is his mental makeup. Pacquiao’s demeanor inside the ring is perfectly suited for his skill set. All smiles and laughs outside the ring, inside of it he’s a killer. Ask Shane Mosley, who after seeing Pacquiao morph from outside-the-ring pal to inside-the-ring mauler decided he’d rather do everything he could to stay away from punches instead of trying to win the fight.
And it was no more evident than his last fight. When Juan Manual Marquez showed his newfound power by way of the long, looping overhand right that Pacquiao saw coming, the killer in Pacman told him to stand up and go at this threatening beast even harder.
That’s what he did, and it almost worked.
But while he was there, seemingly on his way to victory, Pacquiao let himself get overzealous. There was but a second left in the round that doomed him. There was no need to jump in one more time for a combination. In fact, there was no need of it at all that early in the fight, for Marquez, broken nose and all, still possessed his wits and valor. They had not yet been laid asunder.
The rest of Pacquiao’s success has been determined by grit, determination and what New York Times writer Greg Bishop terms “technical wizardry” in his 2011 article on Pacquiao’s transformation under Roach.
After Erik Morales defeated Pacquiao in 2005, Roach decided Pacquiao needed balance, and Roach set about enhancing his right hand. In practice, Roach instructed Pacquiao to throw jabs, uppercuts and hooks in three- to four-punch combinations, all right-handed. It took three years, but a different fighter emerged against David Diaz, and Pacquiao later knocked out Ricky Hatton with a right.
Simply put, Freddie Roach has added layers of fluency to Pacquiao’s fistic prowess, and so it should continue.
There is no need to reinvent Manny Pacquiao. Against Marquez in December, he had everything he needed. He was fast, strong and aggressive. He was a whirling dervish of devilish intentions. He was connecting on a high percentage of his punches.
Instead, Pacquiao and Roach simply need to focus on the little things: the quick snap of his jab, the in-and-out movements with his feet, the three- and four-punch combinations that made him what he once was.
That, of course, and not rushing into the fray when sitting back a little longer will do just fine.
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